I don’t have a name. You probably don’t recognize me. I’m unassuming. It’s true. I wear a uniform. So I appear familiar – but maybe [you] can’t quite place me. I’m silent as a sunset. Be careful. Because after I pass, you might be left in the dark. I started wearing this uniform a while ago. I wore it indoors – in colorful rooms, where the smokey scented hope filled my nostrils. I wore it outdoors, where the street symphonies defeated commuter choirs. But – it doesn’t seem to fit me right anymore.
When I first went to the temple it was great! The devotees were breaking their backs doing service. It was very inspiring. They took an interest in me – and encouraged me for the first time in my life. I felt a sense of purpose and belonging. I thought, “What a rare and wonderful gift it is to be a part of the Hare Krishna movement!” Krishna says, “Out of many thousands of people, only one endeavors for perfection.” Out of many thousands! And look at me! I’m endeavoring! Pretty humble, huh?
The devotees told me that in order to take to spiritual life you have to be humble and sincere. Well, I was washing pots after the Sunday feast for about two months at that point. I was doing great! I thought everyone is probably really impressed by how fast I’m becoming a pure devotee. I started feeling like I was really part of the temple. You know? I went as often as I could.
After a while though, things changed… I mean, everyone was still nice, but – I don’t know… Maybe they all thought I was more advanced than I was. I think everybody assumed I was automatically shifting into the next gear. But nobody realized I was driving a stick – and my clutch was stuck in first. If anybody else was struggling they didn’t talk about it. Sometimes I would look around the room trying to find a face that looked the way I was feeling. I never did.
That most subtle of all killers – familiarity – snuck in. The honeymoon was officially over. No one has much time for me as they used to. I still had plenty of questions. But my questions which were once their toys became their neusance. Impatiences strangled encouragement. Complacency conquered inspiration.
I probably should have brought up my issues rather than wait to be asked. Well, I guess it’s naive but I thought my own doubts and fears might effect their faith and I didn’t want that. Plus it’s just embarrassing to feel like the process is working for everyone except me. I thought I’m doing something wrong. It must be. But I didn’t know what. And I didn’t know how to change it.
Remember when – um – remember when Srila Prabhupada said, “Alright, we’ve made enough devotees for now. It’s time to boil the milk.” Remember when he said that? Time to boil the milk. Jaya Srila Prabhupada. Unfortunately sometimes the milk never gets boiled. It just get’s left out until it spoils. I started thinking, “Why am I even doing this!? Am I here just for the prasadam!?” I often found myself faking it with devotees. I said I was alright when I was confused. I acted “fixed up” but maya had me reeling.
When the devotees returned from India, they told profound tales of their experiences there, and expressing sincere feelings of separation upon leaving. You know, trying to fix their thoughts on the Dham. When I got back from India, the only thing I could think was, you know, “Thank God I’m back from India!” The culture shock was just too much for me. Of course, I couldn’t really tell anybody that.
Actually, spiritually speaking I don’t think I made any advancement at all after my first few months. I saw other devotees gaze lovingly at the deities. They looked like they were really seeing Krishna. I always saw statues. I looked at the deities as if I was real and they were stone, trying to see their eyes or heads move – something! – so that my faith would increase. The reality of course is they are not stone. They are real – and my heart is stone.
Look, I know miracles are a cheap ticket to faith, but it was all I could afford. I thought over time my heart would soften. But it hasn’t. Something else Srila Prabhupada said, “If anybody ever leaves ISKCON, it’s 50% their fault and 50% our fault.” Whatever. I mean, devotees are good. They are! They just…
Those first few months in temple room, you could breath in the love like it was oxygen. It was in the service that they were doing. It was in the way they nurtured me. It was in the way they nurted me… And I’m sure I didn’t take enough responsibility for my own spiritual life.
I used to be angry about it, but it’s really not their fault. You know, I used to think how they always talk about love being the most precious of things, and then hoarded away like a sun that keeps its rays in a burlap bag. I began to feel like the love I felt in the beginning was just a worm. You know? Once I was hooked and reeled in – just got tossed into a bucket.
Look, I’m not angry about it. I just wish… You know what? I don’t want to make an offense. In some ways, I was better off before I became a devotee back when I was just checking out the temple. No regular service. Future was wide open. It was so exciting! Just didn’t last…
What can I tell you? I’m a promise that was made. But it was written on sand and now tide is washing it away. They didn’t mind that I was taking up space. In fact, they liked that I was there! But it wasn’t me they were interested in. They just wanted the space taken up. It’s understandable. There are a lot of people out there to reach. The only problem is that I’m not a table or a chair. I’m a person. You know? They always talk about how God is a person. Well guess what!? I’m a person too!
Oh, and actually, I do have a name. But I don’t think they really wanted to know what it is. Do you?